Two versions of one piece from Magnus Granberg

John Eyles BY

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Ever since Ist Gefallen In Der Schnee, written by Magnus Granberg and performed by his group Skogen, was released to great acclaim on Another Timbre in 2012, the label has issued a steady trickle of recordings by the Swedish composer. Only a couple of Granberg albums on INSUB have bucked the trend—one a composition commissioned for the Insub Meta Orchestra, the other by a quartet comprising Skogen's Anna Lindal on violin, Granberg himself on piano plus INSUB's d’incise and Cyril Bondi. So, it was somewhat surprising when two new albums by Granberg were issued by the Japanese label Meenna, within months of each other, both featuring the same Granberg composition, but in two different versions by two different ensembles, one American, the other Japanese...

Magnus Granberg / Ordinary Affects
Come Down to Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth

The composition was entitled "Come Down to Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth" and had been written by Granberg for the American violin-cello-guitar-vibes quartet Ordinary Affects which, since 2017, had recorded two albums for Editions Wandelweiser, one with Jürg Frey, the other with Eva-Maria Houben, as well as an album for Elsewhere, also with Frey. Like other Granberg compositions, this one took its title from an older piece, in this case borrowing lyrics from "Ye Sacred Muses," a song written by the English Renaissance composer William Byrd on the death of Thomas Tallis; as with past Granberg pieces with borrowed titles, even though the song may have inspired the composer, there is no obvious borrowing of music from it.

In April 2019, Ordinary Affects went on a short US tour, with Granberg on prepared piano, as a guest member. The start of the tour saw the premiere of the piece, and the end the recording heard here, a seventy-five-minute performance recorded at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Given the previous histories of Ordinary Affects and Granberg, it is no surprise that their music together is subtle, spacious and solemn. With a preponderance of sustained notes, the soundscape is uncluttered throughout, with every nuance audible enough to be savoured. The five players are equals with no one of them dominating. In particular, the piano and vibraphone work well together, not getting in each other's way but adopting complementary roles which contribute to the music's air of mystery and solemnity. Overall, the album's atmosphere can easily become extremely habit forming.

Magnus Granberg
Come Down To Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth: Revised version for sho, koto, prepared piano & electronics

By November 2019, Granberg had revised the composition for sho, koto, prepared piano and electronics. On November 8th 2019, the version heard here was recorded at GOK Sound, Tokyo, Granberg playing prepared piano with Ko Ishikawa on sho, Miki Maruta on koto and Toshimaru Nakamura on his customary no-input mixing board; the following day, that quartet appeared at Tokyo's annual Ftarri festival. The membership of the quartet is unsurprising; it should be remembered that Nakimura had been a member of Skogen that recorded Ist Gefallen In Der Schnee back in November 2010, with Ishikawa also being a member when the ensemble recorded the follow-up Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long in November 2012.

Notably, this quartet's recorded version of the piece is twenty-two minutes shorter than the Ordinary Affects version. While the soundscape is markedly different from the US recording, with Nakamura's electronics being prevalent, but Granberg's piano fulfilling a similar role, the overall mood and atmosphere of the piece remain constant.

Although they are different in significant ways, the two versions of this composition complement one another perfectly, each shedding light on the other. In the end, no listener should feel that they have a choice to make between the two; both are equally desirable and should be considered as the two parts of a double CD (or download as each CD is a limited edition). As essential as all of Granberg's works. Beautiful.

Tracks and Personnel

Come Down To Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth

Tracks: Come Down To Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth.

Personnel: Morgan Evans-Weiler: violin; Laura Cetilia: cello; Luke Martin: electric guitar; J.P.A. Falzone: vibraphone; Magnus Granberg: prepared piano.

Come Down To Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth: Revised version for sho, koto, prepared piano & electronics.

Tracks: Come Down To Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth.

Personnel: Ko Ishikawa: sho; Miki Maruta: 20-string koto; Toshimaru Nakamura: no-input mixing board; Magnus Granberg: prepared piano.

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